Season recaps continue today with Minnesota and Iowa....
The Golden Gophers saw both programs make strides in 2008-09, getting a bowl bid and an NCAA Tournament invitation. The football team had plummeted to 1-10 in '07 after the ill-advised firing of Glen Mason. They were able to bounce back this year. After a road win at Illinois, they were riding high at 7-1, and a New Year's bowl date looked like almost a lock. But the wheels came off down the stretch. Home losses came to Northwestern and Michigan, the former a heartbreaker. They let a two-touchdown lead at Wisconsin slip away. Then Iowa came to the Metrodome and delivered the crowning humiliation, a 55-0 shutout. A loss to Kansas in the Insight Bowl ended the year. Overall, it was a good year, but the ending is a bad taste to take into a year when they open up a new stadium.
Basketball's improvement wasn't as dramatic, but showed the steady progress that mark a Tubby Smith-coached team. In spite of schizophrenic play from star guard Lawrence Westbrook, the Gopher team as a whole was consistent. They got big road wins at rivals Iowa and Wisconsin. And after a near miss last year, they made the NCAAs this time around. A tough first-round draw against Texas hastened their exit, but it can't quell the optimisim. This is a program movin' on up.
Kirk Ferentz needed this to be a turnaround year for him and he got his wish. It did not appear that way early on. The Hawkeye football team lost three straight close games to Pitt, Northwestern and Michigan State. But all of those teams turned out to be better than expected, and Iowa themselves got on a roll. They won five of their last six. It included a demolition of Wisconsin, and a 24-23 shocker over Penn State, a game that cost the Nittany Lions a spot in the national title game (from the way things turned out, you'd have to say Iowa saved the Big Ten from a third straight championship game shellacking). Ferentz's team was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal bowl season, as they hammered South Carolina 31-10 in the Outback Bowl.
The basketball team finished 15-17 and out of the money for a postseason invite. But they did have high points, notably the play of Jake Kelly, who was the conference's best player from mid-February forward. They ended the regular season by solidfying their role as Penn State's nemesis, with a double-overtime win likely knocking the Lions out of the NCAA Tournament.